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On the Scene: Circling the 'Date'

August 4, 2005 By:
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D.B. — call home!

Or, at least, Drew Barrymore, call Brian Herzlinger.

In a way, she already has; Herzlinger’s “My Date With Drew” is his iconic calling card, loaded with mirthful minutes of movie idol worship and popcorn panache that makes the Marlton, N.J., native’s feature directorial debut, opening Friday, Aug. 5, a “Date” to remember.

For the Jersey Jewish guy, this “Date With Drew” draws on a lifelong dream Herzlinger’s had “ever since I first saw her in ‘E.T.’ when I was 6,” back in 1982.

And now there it is — his low-budget highlight of his life sharing screen space where “E.T.” once soared over the moon.

And over the moon is where this Jewish charmer is; his $1,100 film budget was earned on a TV game show pilot by replying to a film question whose correct answer was … “Drew Barrymore.”

He won the game, but could he win over Drew in the real dating game of life? Abetted by a handful of friends and a movie camera loaded with chutzpah, Herzlinger set out on a 30-day summertime mission — to make a movie of his moves on Drew.

“I figured if we were successful, it was something I could save” for posterity, he says.

And if not? “It was something to do for the summer.”

What would the neighbors say? Or, better yet, how would his mother react?

Indeed, the movie man’s mother’s comments are a comic highlight of the movie — comments that only a Jewish mother could love … or make.

But she’s softened since. “She’s really grown to adore Drew.”

Audiences adore “Drew,” too ; the film has nabbed a handful of festival audience awards. No real surprise; Herzlinger’s talent always was for being able to find the meaning of the hole in the donut — or was it the bagel?

“ ‘Benny the Bagel’ was about a bagel attached to a fishing line. C’mon,” he says in mock defense of his first film, “I was in eighth grade!”

Cheesy? Nah, plain — and there was no schmear campaign, he recalls.

From “Bagel” to Barrymore … wouldn’t it just have been easier for Herzlinger to hook up with a young woman through J-Dating?

“I was on that for a while,” he says. “In fact, I hear they’re doing a big promotion for this film.”

Who knew that a movie made with a borrowed camcorder from Circuit City would make the film festival circuit?

Oh … Circuit City. “Borrowed” is a euphemism for “return this item within 30 days and get your money back.”

Return to the days of yesteryear? No way!

“Circuit City now has a 14-day return policy and restocking charge,” thanks to Herzlinger’s hi-jinks.

“Maybe next time,” he muses, “we’ll try Best Buy.”

And Here’s The Pitch!

But, ultimately, would Drew buy his pitch? Or would the female star of “Fever Pitch” balk at the bait and bail out?

“One thing I didn’t want to do is come across as a stalker,” says Herzlinger. In reality, a celery stalk would seem more frightening than this pleasant and polite picture of good manners.

It was all a question of circling the “Date” rather then having a direct confrontation. Herzlinger and friends formed a “Six Degrees of Separation” scheme to get close to Barrymore, contacting friends of contacts of contacts of the princess of cuteness.

And what they ended up with is a print charming — the movie is sweet and soulful as it documents this Jewish Don Quixote’s tilt at the Hollywood Hills.

Maybe it was all meant to be for this filmmaker, who once interned for mega-movie mogul Steven Spielberg — who directed “E.T.”?

It’s not as if Herzlinger was unfamiliar with film or the film world. For his Bar Mitzvah, he received a laser movie disc player and then a video camera just in time to get a slice of the “Benny the Bagel” action.

When he went away to college — where he met his friends/future Drew Crew teammates — Herzlinger produced short films that were magna cum laud-ed, and he has since worked in the industry.

As “Drew” draws praise, Herzlinger can’t help but applaud the influence that making the movie has had on him. “When you get the taste of being inspired and seeing how inspiration affects people, you want to keep doing this,” says Herzlinger.

It’s a taste of tzedakah he enjoys; Herzlinger’s now giving back to others, “executive producing a TV series documenting people seeking their own dreams.”

Was this Spielberg-saturated close encounter with greatness even good enough? What more could he ask for?

Or, maybe it’s ask not what you can do as a moviemaker, ask what a bubba can do for you.

Ever since news of his Drew project got around the Jewish community, “I have more Jewish grandmothers giving me pictures of their granddaughters, with advice: ‘Totskele, she’s the most beautiful girl!’ ”

In the big picture, what would Drew say?

After all, it’s not like she’s without suitors. Indeed, late in the film, a disappointed Herzlinger is shown discovering that Drew is seriously involved with her own sweetheart.

But did that “My Date With Drew” withdrawal dull the Dulcinea-like appeal of this impossible dream? Would this Man of La Marlton move on?

Or did Brian get his date?

Ticket-buyers can get their answers at the theater.

So, as for life with Brian, the holy grail now is … what?

Well, Mom Zita Herzlinger has her own opinion. “My mom said, ‘After Drew, maybe you can find a real person?’ ”

From reel to real — what would it take for a woman to date the suddenly hot Herzlinger? Would she have to perfect the phrase, “Let’s do lunch”? Send a note saying, “Have your agent call my agent”?

“All that girls have to do is just ask me for my number,” says the suddenly cinematic Casanova.

“And,” he chuckles, “get past my mother.”

 

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